When Lona Rubenstein, an East Hampton woman who used to excel at table tennis, checked into the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut on March 23 to play in the Foxwoods World Poker Classic, part of the World Poker Tour championship tournament, she started out hot.
That night, she played in a no-limit hold ’em tournament, placing 15th, earning $550, “which covered my entry fees to play the rest of that weekend,” she said this week. “I only play in tournaments; I don’t play in cash games.”
After getting knocked out of a ladies event over the weekend, she considered heading home, but decided to stay at the hotel, where she took it easy on Monday. On Tuesday morning, she checked out, but then changed her mind, opting to stick to her original plan of staying through Wednesday.
“So I checked back into the hotel,” she said. “And not only did I check into the hotel, I entered the HOSE tournament. And I won it.”
The HOSE tournament is a four-game event for men and women, its acronym standing for the first letter of each game played: Hold ’Em Limit, Omaha High Low, Seven Card Stud: high only, and Seven Card Stud: high and low. One round of each game is played, with the betting stakes increasing. Seventy-five players started out in the game. At 78, Ms. Rubenstein was the oldest in the tournament.
At 3 a.m. on Wednesday, after 13 straight hours of play, only Ms. Rubenstein and one other competitor, George Fotiadis of North Windsor, N.Y., remained.
“He suggests to me, ‘Why don’t we chop?’ ” Ms. Rubenstein said this week. To “chop” means to end the game, taking first and second prize in the tournament and splitting the proceeds.
“It could have gone on for another 13 hours, when you’re playing head-to-head. The fatigue factor was a much stronger factor for me,” Ms. Rubenstein said.
“I thought for three minutes and I said, ‘Fine, we’ll chop.’ ”
“He’s a young pro, and I’m an old lady. I wasn’t lucky, and I wasn’t unlucky. I played well. I’m very proud of how I played.”
Ms. Rubenstein took a $6,155 prize, and Mr. Fotiadis took home $6,156. In addition, she won a commemorative watch and gave him the trophy. “I had the choice because I had more chips than he did. I’m 78, and I beat the kids.”
A former table tennis champion who played on the U.S. women’s world team, Ms. Rubenstein found a new pastime when she aged out of table tennis: playing poker online, before it was outlawed in the United States.
“It was the competing,” she said. “And now here I was 60-something and this online poker thing was a chance to compete. And it was great because they couldn’t see I was old, and they couldn’t see I was a woman.” Her online successes earned her an invitation to the World Series of Poker championship in Las Vegas, where she won $14,000 several years ago. “When online poker became illegal,” she said, “I was forced to play in casinos.”
In 1997, Ms. Rubenstein published “Getting Back in the Game: Finding the Fountain of Youth in Cyberspace.” It was not, she said, a how-to on poker, but “about how in my late 60s I was able to compete again. Because I wasn’t a great poker player,” she said. “I’m a great competitor. I don’t give up.”